Gang of youths throw brick at Glider driver and drag ticket inspector off bus
A GANG of youths dragged a ticket inspector off a Glider bus in west Belfast and threw a brick at the driver in an assault described as an "attack on every worker in Northern Ireland".
The two Translink workers had to be kept in hospital overnight after they were attacked on Northumberland Street close to the International Wall on the Falls Road at around 8:50pm on Thursday.
It is understood the gang of up to six youths attacked the inspector after he challenged their rowdy behaviour.
The group became abusive before dragging the inspector off the bus and beating him in front of other passengers.
When the driver went to his aid, he was hit by a brick.
Trade union Unite said the pair were attacked by a bigger crowd of 20 people before Translink support workers and police arrived at the scene.
The driver and inspector could not quickly escape because Glider buses cannot drive away while their doors remain open.
The doors stay open if sensors detect people standing close to the bus.
Police said they were investigating and appealed to anyone with information to contact them.
Davy Thompson from Unite said just last month the union had highlighted an increase in assaults on bus and train drivers and inspectors.
"While body-cameras help secure convictions they do not stop those determined to attack workers," he said.
"Those responsible must face the full weight of the law."
Mr Thompson said transport workers need to feel safe.
"We have to ask ourselves – is this the type of society we want to live in where elderly people, young couples with young children are scared to get on a bus?" he said.
"Anyone in the local community who has knowledge of those responsible to come forward and help Translink and the police in their investigations."
A spokeswoman for Translink said: "We strongly condemn this serious incident".
"The safety and welfare of our staff and passengers is our top priority and we are assisting the PSNI with their investigation," she said.
She added there is a £1,000 reward for anyone who witnesses an attack on Translink staff or property and is prepared to give evidence which results in a conviction.
Sinn Féin West Belfast MP Paul Maskey wished the driver and inspector a speedy recovery.
"No one should have to face incidents like this and people should be able to go about their business free from fear or intimidation," he said.
SDLP councillor Tim Attwood said he was "appalled" by the assault.
"The Glider staff are providing an important public service and deserve our respect and full support," he said.